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Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11


Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11

As a detailed, carefully documented exposé of ignorance,
complacency, shortsightedness and negligence, WHY AMERICA SLEPT is
perhaps the most important of the recent books addressing various
aspects of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

A similar case could be made for James Bovard's TERRORISM AND
TYRANNY, which examines not causes but effects, specifically the
government's response to 9/11, which has consisted largely of an
unprecedented assault on the Bill of Rights, especially in the
areas of privacy and due process. It is a vastly important book
that every American ought to read.

Gerald Posner's concern, however, is with life-and-death issues,
primarily the question of why the intelligence community failed to
discover the al-Qaeda plot to hijack civilian airliners and crash
them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Although Posner's approach is generally detached and restrained, he
has conceded that he was "infuriated" by some of his discoveries
and "disgusted" in particular by President Clinton's failure to
neutralize the threat posed by the al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin
Laden. Posner provides details of opportunities to capture bin
Laden, opportunities that he says Clinton either ignored or
rejected. Moreover, he says, Clinton declined offers by both Sudan
and Qatar to arrest bin Laden and deliver him to the United States.
Perhaps for purposes of comic relief, Posner also quotes Clinton's
national security adviser, Sandy Berger, as saying that as early as
1996 the administration was "trying to get bin Laden with
everything we had."

In this carnival of boneheadedness and floundering incompetence,
Posner recounts one outrage after another. Among the worst, in
terms of consequences, was the unwillingness of the FBI and CIA to
cooperate and share information. Each had information of vital
importance to the other, but the rules of their long-standing
rivalry prohibited mature behavior. An FBI agent who asked the CIA
for information about Zacarias Moussaoui received an official
reprimand for doing so. Moussaoui was one of those aviation
students who wanted to learn how to steer large airliners but had
no interest in learning how to take off or land. The FBI agent was
Coleen Rowley, one of the very few figures in this bleak history
who behaved intelligently and honorably.

WHY AMERICA SLEPT is filled with evidentiary specifics that attest
to the thoroughness of Posner's research, and one suspects that
this former Wall Street lawyer might have been happier as a
prosecutor. But having turned to investigative reporting --- he is
now the author or co-author of ten books --- Posner apparently
finds sufficient satisfaction in fulfilling the imperative of the
people's right to know, and in this book, most decisively, the
people's need to know.

He has pinpointed individual anomalies and systemic weaknesses that
made America vulnerable to attack. This much and no more lies
within the bounds of investigative reporting; readers have a shared
responsibility to press for the necessary corrections to the
problems he has identified.

Reviewed by Harold V. Cordry on January 24, 2011

Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11
by Gerald Posner

  • Publication Date: August 31, 2004
  • Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0812966236
  • ISBN-13: 9780812966237